August 23, 1929 - February 17, 2023
Gertrude (Trudi) Brechbühl, daughter of Bernhard and Marie Bosshart, grew up in a family of six children on a dairy farm in Switzerland. Life on the farm was busy, there was always something to do. So, as a young girl, she found enjoyment in daily tasks, for, as she says, “We had little time to play but loved to work with our parents in the house, garden and fields!” She and her one brother and four sisters learned to take care of the animals, tend to the crops, prepare and preserve foods, knit, sew and master a whole host of handcrafts.
Located in the small village of Dietschwil in the canton of St. Gallen, the farm was a three-mile walk to the nearest school in the town of Kirchberg. She and her siblings made the walk every day there and back, come rain, shine or even snow. Upon graduating high-school, Trudi’s goal was to become a social worker. To achieve this, she needed to attend and graduate from the Soziale Frauenschule. But in those days, you had to be of a certain age and have had prior work experience. So initially, she attended the Kusterhof school of home economics and childcare. Given her interest in other languages and cultures, she went to work as a governess, first in the French speaking part of Switzerland, and then for a family in England.
Trudi’s adventures didn’t end there. In 1954 she decided to cross the ocean and explore America. She had another two years before she could attend the Soziale Frauenschule, so this was perfect timing. Not knowing a single person in the United States, she set sail on a two-week voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to New York. There she found work as a governess and stayed for almost three years working for two prominent New York families. Life was exciting in the big city and she got to have some wonderful experiences. One story she loved to tell was how she would occasionally get invited to dinner parties by her employer. One evening after she had put the children to bed she joined the party downstairs and was seated next to a very handsome and charming man, whom she chatted with for quite some time not knowing who he was. It turns out she spent the evening with Cary Grant. During her time in New York, she met a young, up and coming, Swiss banker by the name of Hansruedi Brechbühl. He too was straight off the boat, eager to meet people and see America. Their friendship blossomed and he became the love of her life.
Before returning to Switzerland, she wanted to travel across North America and see the sites. So, she saved her money and when her work came to an end, she set off on her road trip via Greyhound bus. She traveled across the country marveling at the beautiful landscapes, varied places and people. Shortly after reaching San Francisco, Trudi became quite ill and was alone in a rented room for several weeks trying to get well. In the process, she used the rest of her savings and didn’t have the money to return to the East Coast, let alone Switzerland. So, when she was well enough, she had to find work. What was to be a short stay in San Francisco became several months, until she had the money for the return journey.
When she got back to New York she met up with Hansruedi again and shortly before she was going to return to Switzerland, and to her surprise, he popped the question. They married in New York City in August 1958. The newlyweds didn’t return to Switzerland for several years and they settled in Elmhurst, NY. Given her love of children and experience as a governess, Trudi became a kindergarten assistant at the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan. Hansruedi continued working for the bank.
In 1963, they returned to Switzerland with a toddler and another child on the way, this time via airplane. They planned to raise their family in the old country. But that was not to be. Eighteen months later, this time with two young children and another on the way, they returned to the United States. They settled in Garden City and their four children, Hans-Christian, Ulrich, AnnaBarbara, and David attended the Garden City Waldorf School where Trudi and Hansruedi became active members of the school community and were parent representatives for several years.
While her children were young, Trudi enjoyed volunteering at the school in the handwork department, library, storeroom, cafeteria, main office and preschool. From 1972 to 1975, the Brechbühls served as Parent Association Chairs. In recalling her time as a volunteer, Trudi said “I received much more than I gave.” Then in 1979, given her experience at the Rudolf Steiner School, Trudi was invited to become one of the pre-school teachers. She taught nursery and kindergarten from 1979 to 1995 graduating eight classes and providing the first experience of Waldorf education for many students and parents. Throughout her teaching, Trudi brought a disciplined and loving disposition to her work. Her steady, calm, kind and inspired manner created an atmosphere in which children flourished.
Trudi retired as a pre-school teacher in 1995, but her work for the Garden City Waldorf School didn’t end there. She continued to volunteer in the handwork department, teaching various crafts to the children in the elementary school. In 2004, the Waldorf School of Garden City established the Trudi Brechbühl Handwork & Practical Arts Endowment Fund which provided funding to enrich the school’s handwork program by exposing students and the school community to crafts and practical arts. The endowment provided resources for visiting instructors from diverse cultures and backgrounds to teach students about traditional crafts from around the world.
Trudi believes in giving back, but her life of service didn’t begin and end with the Waldorf School of Garden City. She remained a prominent supporter of the Swiss Benevolent Society and made the monthly trips into New York City for the meetings well into her 70’s. She made regular visits to The Fellowship Community in Spring Valley to meet with former colleagues who had moved there. Dr. Karnow has been Trudi’s primary care physician for many, many years. Also, when grandchildren came along, Trudi and her daughter would bring the children all the way from Long Island for regular medical appointments with Dr. Karnow.
Besides her passion for young children and teaching, Trudi loved living in Garden City and took great pride in her garden. Her upbringing, strength of character, and industry shone through in so many ways. She was well known for cycling around town preferring to use her bicycle than ride in a car. She did her own yardwork, tending to her garden and home from early in the morning to late in the evening no matter what the weather conditions to make sure it was always in tip top shape. She never stopped.
Sadly, Trudi needed to leave her beloved Garden City home and garden in 2015. She moved to The Fellowship Community in Spring Valley, New York. There she got to relive some of her childhood. She loved to walk over to the farm to visit the cows and feed the chickens. It might not have been the little farm in Dietschwil, Switzerland where she grew up, but the animals made it feel more like home.
And what of Trudi’s family? Her husband, Hansruedi died in 1981 quite unexpectedly. She thought of going back to Switzerland but chose not to because it would have meant breaking up the family. Hans-Christian was already attending West Point and Ulrich was soon on his way. Anna-Barbara attended Vassar College and pursued a career in healthcare and David followed in his brothers’ footsteps attending West Point too. The boys retired from the military in the 90’s and went on to pursue careers in business. The Brechbühl children are all married and live in various parts of the country. Trudi is blessed with nine grandchildren with whom she has spent countless hours watching and helping them grow into fine young men and women.
Although the family resides permanently in the Unites States, they stay in touch with relatives in Switzerland and love to travel back to Europe at every opportunity, as their parents encouraged.
To make a gift to the Fellowship Community in honor of Gertrude Brechbuhl please visit